The Silver Surfer holds an odd place in the Marvel pantheon. His name’s self explanatory. He’s the first Herald of Galactus, and he possesses the Power Cosmic as a result. But he lacks a certain charisma. He’s often more of a plot device than a character. He’s awesome, but not charming. Dan Slott, Mike Allred, and Laura Allred make him charming. So let’s discuss the latest story arc of Silver Surfer, in which Norrin Radd encounters Galactus. Again. Spoilers beyond this point!
The Silver Surfer has a tendency to attract heavier storylines. He’s a lonely, melancholy wanderer. Earth was a prison for him. But this run has taken a different path. Dawn gives Radd the chance to show his more curious, lighthearted side. Toomie, the Surfer’s sentient board, adds to the playful atmosphere. Radd, Toomie, and Dawn are simply interested in fun, cosmic adventures. Lives are saved, but ethical and existential dilemmas simply don’t come up. This run of Silver Surfer is minimalistic in its plots.
This arc is perhaps as deep as it gets (not very). Radd and Dawn crashland on an invisible planet full of Galactus survivors, and they’re all the last of their species. They, naturally, freak out upon seeing the Silver Surfer. It’s here that Dawn actually learns for the first time what Radd did to their worlds. She, naturally, freaks out upon hearing this. This is the emotional crisis of the story.
Then Galactus shows up, and the people that fear Radd suddenly need his help. Issue 9 keeps it simple. Radd shares his origin story with Dawn, and then surfs the moon into Galactus. This is the big, set piece moment, and it’s beautiful. The moon moves in the skyline, Dawn realizes what Radd’s doing, and we watch over-the-shoulder as Radd closes in on Galactus. This sequence perfectly encompasses how Mike and Laura Allred define Silver Surfer. The action is always clear and concise, and every panel feels huge. The issue ends on a cliffhanger with Radd floating “silvered down” in space.
It’s not surprising when the truth is revealed that Radd is simply playing dead. This sort of twist feels nostalgic, rather than cheap. It’s all in good fun. Silver Surfer is fun, after all. The final issue focuses on another big set piece scene; all these aliens, last of their species, cry out to Galactus, “Spare my world and I will be your Herald.” It’s a scene that mirrors Spartacus, but it’s perfected with a single word from Galactus: “No.” It’s that simple, and Slott makes Galactus feel ten times bigger. But even though all these aliens hate Norrin Radd, they would all make the same deal if possible. Ultimately, they cut another deal to spare Dawn from becoming a Herald herself, and they give Galactus their planet (sans inhabitants). It can be difficult to appeal to Galactus’s sense of mercy, but you can always appeal to his stomach.
I’m not always a fan of Slott’s writing in Amazing Spider-Man, but I can’t speak highly enough about his work on retro stories like “Learning to Crawl” and here in Silver Surfer. Mike and Laura Allred are a perfect fit, and together they craft something clearly inspired by the past, but still absolutely unique. Silver Surfer is, after all, a book about Dawn and Toomie perhaps even more than it’s about Norrin Radd. That’s why it works, and that’s why it’s special. They’ve figured out how to make Norrin Radd charismatic.